History

The Department of Microbiology
Professor Chi-To Huang
Professor Chi-To Huang

Professor Mun-Hon Ng
Professor Mun-Hon Ng

Dr.Stanley Wang-Kit Im
Dr.Stanley Wang-Kit Im

Professor Kwok-Yung Yuen
Professor Kwok-Yung Yuen

Professor Patrick Chiu-Yat Woo
Professor Patrick Chiu-Yat Woo

Infectious diseases remained major killer diseases in the early twentieth century in Hong Kong. However, the study of infectious diseases and microbes at the University of Hong Kong remained in the realm of pathology until 1968 when Professor James Gibson separated the two specialties. The Department of Microbiology was then established with Professor Chi-To Huang appointed as the founding professor.

Professor Chi-To Huang was born in Hong Kong on 29 October 1915. He graduated from the Lingnan Medical College in 1942 and was initially a specialist in internal medicine. Subsequently, he received virology and bacteriology training at the Harvard Medical School (1948) and Leeds University (1957) respectively. Professor Huang retired from the University of Hong Kong in 1979 and passed away in 2000.

Professor Chi-To Huang was succeeded by Professor Mun-Hon Ng (1979–1996), Dr Stanley Wang-Kit Im (1997–2002), Professor Kwok-Yung Yuen (2002–2011), and Professor Patrick Chiu-Yat Woo (2011–present) who witnessed the growth of the Department from a 4-membered team to the present-day unit with 21 staff (scientific officer, research assistant professors, assistant professors, associate professors, and professors) with 4 affiliated laboratories and centres (State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Carol Yu Centre for Infection, Research Centre of Infection and Immunology, and AIDS Institute), and numerous national and international collaborating laboratories.

The Department’s history of development with the University of Hong Kong’s affiliated hospitals (Queen Mary Hospital and HKU-Shenzhen Hospital) means that the clinical connection has been pivotal in guiding the teaching and research in microbiology. In addition to providing clinical consultation and laboratory diagnostic services to the hospitals, the Department has been active in undergraduate and post-graduate teaching with over 12 programmes in the Faculty. The Department’s research focus on both the basic and clinical aspects of Emerging Infectious Diseases has led to the discovery of more than 50 novel microbes including the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in 2003, the human coronavirus HKU1 in 2004, and the bat SARS coronavirus in 2005.

These important research works have translated into major contributions in the tackles against local and global emerging and re-emerging infections (eg: SARS, Middle East respiratory syndrome, avian influenza A (H5N1 and H7N9), Laribacter hongkongensis-associated infections, penicilliosis); the fight against antibiotic-resistant organisms (eg: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis, oseltamivir-resistant influenza A viruses); the management of outbreaks of infectious diseases with potential zoonotic significance (eg: melioidosis in dolphins in the Ocean Park, brittle tail syndrome in horses at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, tubulointerstitial nephritis due to feline morbillivirus in pet cats) and the formulation of local health policies.